A Life Apart

Chapter 40: The Climax (pg. 328)


Standing on a rise overlooking the town, Millie could map out a path that would lead to a paved road on its outskirts. Her spirits rose, overcoming the thirst and weariness that had been plaguing her. For she had not thought to bring water for their trek; and neither woman had the right shoes for hiking. She was duly excited about finally reaching their destination and rushed down the far side of the mound to her companion. She wanted to blurt out, “We’re there. I’ve found the path to Point Reyes Station.” But that urge was quelled by the sight of Mirabelle resting so serenely beside a pond. Instead, she stopped several feet behind Mirabelle and spoke softly, “Mirabelle, I’ve seen Point Reyes.” Mirabelle turned to face her. “It’s just over there,” she pointed over her shoulder. Mirabelle smiled. “How can you be so calm? We’re going to be safe. Aren’t you excited?”

“Come sit next to me.”

There was something both compelling and reassuring in the invitation. Millie complied. As she settled into position beside Mirabelle, she studied her companion. “There’s something about you I don’t understand. Like when Abdul caught you without clothes and like now, you don’t react normally . . . I mean, like everybody else . . . at least like anybody I know. Why is that?”

Mirabelle extended her arms like some gesture of introduction to the scene before her. “You see this pond. It’s fed by tributaries too small to reach the ocean. Stronger flows invite the Pacific wild salmon to traditional spawning sites in Marin. So this pond doesn’t seem to serve a larger purpose. It’s just here. But look at it again. There’s a water lily about to bloom, and you can see insects skimming and feeding on its surface. Take yet a wider view. See how the breeze ruffles its surface and how the surrounding blades of grass wave in rhythmic harmony with it. Only we perceive how these things are interconnected and how each radiates its uniqueness in being and beauty. What’s there is here.” Mirabelle palmed her heart. “We connect with reality by creating it in our awareness.  And it pulls us to the center of everything.”

Millie stared at the scene before her. “You’re saying, ‘We should stop to smell the roses’, right?”

“You saw this pond when we passed it, but took no notice. Now, sit with me and focus your attention.” For several minutes the women sat in silence. Then Mirabelle spoke, “Did you count the minutes that just passed?”

“No, I was just here with you and with this.” Millie nodded toward the pond.

“What happened to the excitement you felt about seeing Point Reyes Station?”

“It slipped my mind.”

“Yes, of course. You chose to share this moment of awareness with me—to be in and of it. Sure, you had to make an initial effort to focus your attention. But what followed was a gift: without you doing anything, you were pulled in, lost to time, absorbed into the very heart of this reality.  You changed your perspective, refocused, and, in the process, learned how to change the context of your life. Every time you do this, you grow in awareness. You feel whole and in harmony with the world around you, even though your perspective is unique.

“My life’s been so different than yours. I don’t know that I could ever experience that harmony you speak of. I doubt I even see what you see or can ever share your perspective.”

“Millie, you just did . . .”

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